The Ministry of Education said it will continue to prioritize the safety of students and staff in school districts around B.C. this fall. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Ministry of Education said it will continue to prioritize the safety of students and staff in school districts around B.C. this fall. (Black Press Media file photo)

Ministry of Education, SD61 schools prepare for fall return

Province plans to support school districts through funding, improved air quality

With September just around the corner, students and parents may be wondering what is in store for this fall.

It’s a situation educators across the Greater Victoria School District have been cautiously monitoring.

Esquimalt High School principal Tina Pierik told Black Press Media that staff were waiting on direction from the Ministry of Education and that their biggest questions for the fall are whether masks will be mandatory in schools and whether current public health orders will be toned down.

“Our goal is to have as normal a year as possible for students,” Pierik said, adding she is confident things will be much less stringent this year and that students will continue to diligently abide by any protocols that remain in place.

“I’m actually very proud of how our students did,” she said. “‘Go this way, don’t touch this’ – they followed the rules better than the adults did.”

Lisa McPhail, communications and community engagement manager for the Greater Victoria School District, said in an email to Black Press Media that SD61 awaits final direction from the province. The Ministries of Health and Education are expected to publish guidelines for the upcoming school year later this month.

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The Ministry of Education said in a statement it initially provided schools with health and safety guidance and a recovery plan in June for the fall semester. With case counts on the rise, the ministry is continuing to work closely with public health experts and its provincial K-12 steering committee to ensure a safe start to the academic year for the more than 600,000 public and independent school students in B.C.

“Since day one, the safety of students and staff in our schools has been our highest priority, and that will continue this school year,” the statement said. “Thanks to our efforts and the hard work of the sector, we were able to keep schools open and safe last year while other jurisdictions did not.”

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The ministry’s annual maintenance programs have helped improve heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at over 400 schools in the last four years. A total of $10 million in federal pandemic funding was also used by districts during the last academic year to improve over 45,000 air and ventilation filters in the province’s schools.

This year, the ministry will provide $14.4 million for districts to improve the air quality in their schools and has worked with the BC Teachers Federation to prioritize maintenance for school districts in areas with higher COVID-19 exposure rates.

The ministry’s statement said it will continue to plan safety measures based on the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 and provincial vaccine roll-out.

For more information on the upcoming school year, visit gov.bc.ca/content.


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